Monday, September 24, 2012

Creating a "Farm City": A responsive book review

Recently, kind of by accident, I had the pleasure of discovering and meeting Novella Carpenter.  I was so impressed with her book Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer
and can't wait to visit and revisit her new book The Essential Urban Farmer. I was impressed at her poetry and honesty about the realities of raising and butchering animals. And the whole thing combined with my reading of Green Metropolis had me wishing for a Utopia in which city dwellers can only have yards if they will relegate and utilize them for something with ecological usefulness: habitat, water purification, food sources for local organisms, or food production by themselves or their green thumb neighbors. [Update: For a good laugh, go here to see what God might think of your yard] Everyone else must live in hip urban apartments...One can wish.

I imagine what my own urban farm, (ok, highly delinquent garden), will, hopefully, evolve into: edible hedges, a dwarf orchard, a four season garden complete with asparagus and strawberry perennial beds, ducks eating the garden snails, an aquaponic fish farm fed from rainwater or grey water, rogue bees going out west and returning with saddlebags full of gold, and fuzzy bunnies, pooping everywhere. And maybe an alpaca or a pony, because well a buffalo wouldn't fit, and really, why not? (Check back with me in two years. If I continue to have much of a good for nothing lay about lawn, you can gently remind me of these dreams or threaten to make me live in an urban apartment).
However, about the butchering...besides fish I have never directly killed anything I was going to eat. And even if I could do it could I break it to my children that Daffy was going on the dinner plate, Bugsy will just be butchered, or would I have to stretch the truth, or even lie, as Novella did to her eight year old neighbor?

This book led me through a whole abyss of ethical questions. No one wants blood on their hands. I could make the argument that some slaughterhouses or game processing facilities could do the deeds quicker, are more experienced, have better tools, better facilities, better mess control. But really, does it have more to do with passing my "dirty" work to someone else? And how am I compensating them for that work? Am I demanding that they work in a safe and sanitary environment and are compensated with fair wages and benefits? In America, that would almost always be a capital blaring NO. (See Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation). If there really is a gravity to this killing process and a communion of the souls, what does it do to a fellow human soul when we ask them to be responsible for the killing of far more animals than they themselves will ever eat? They are probably not doing it out of an act of charity. Am I overburdening, even poisoning the consciousness of another by falsely and nonchalantly alleviating my own?

In recent family discussions my sons say they do not think it would be impossibly hard to kill and eat an animal you had known it's whole life. They said it would be okay, as long as it was  not a dog or a cat. They want to grow to help in the process. And they really want to be big enough to learn to hunt, (aka shoot bows and guns). Will this be their contribution to our sustainable table? In the meantime, they asked if I would buy them a sling shot...I'm considering. 

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